Like most men, I was long overdue for a physical exam. Because I was not particularly happy with my current doctor, this gave me an additional reason to postpone making that appointment. Well, I could wait no longer. I was in the process of applying for new health insurance, so at the recommendation of a close friend, I decided I would schedule an appointment with his doctor. I am so glad I did, for several reasons.
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One, I was long overdue. But more importantly, it was the first time I learned that we as dental health-care professionals are not alone in our efforts to promote good oral hygiene. During the course of the new-patient interview with my physician, he asked me, “Do you floss regularly?” I was surprised to hear that question since I was the one usually asking my patients. After answering, I inquired why he asked that particular question and did he ask it of all his patients. He explained that with current research potentially linking periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, it was important that his patients maintain good oral hygiene, especially flossing, since he knew it was probably the one thing people did less often if at all. I was impressed!
That same year, one of my patients was about to undergo open-heart surgery, and I was surprised to get a medical consult from his surgeon. He requested that I verify the patient did not have active periodontal disease. As part of his preparation for surgery, his surgeon wanted to minimize the potential for postsurgical complications, including any potential sources for infection. The patient came to the office for his routine hygiene appointment and an exam, updated periodontal charting, and radiographs were taken. Because of his good oral hygiene and maintaining regularly scheduled hygiene appointments, his gums were healthy and he was cleared of having active periodontal disease.
Both of these situations are perfect examples of other health-care professionals recognizing the contribution of good oral health to good overall and cardiovascular health. What a great reason for us to stress to our patients the importance of good oral hygiene and regular dental exams as the cornerstone of prevention and early detection of periodontal disease.
It’s likely that our patients brush regularly. It is, however, not so evident that they are as diligent with their flossing. And for some patients, even the knowledge that good oral hygiene could greatly improve their chances of preventing periodontal disease is not enough to get them to add regular flossing their regimen. However, educating our patients about the potential to decrease their risk of not only gum disease but cardiovascular disease may be the difference and motivation these patients need.
Motivating patients to have good oral hygiene habits can be a challenge. But what they ultimately do at home is their choice. As along as we educate, inform, and give our recommendations, we know we’ve done our job. The rest is up to them.
ADDITIONAL READING ...
Oral-systemic associations: 2013
New clinical recommendations from AAP encourage comprehensive periodontal evaluations for people with diabetes
Periodontal disease incidence
What's next in oral-systemics?
Where Oral Meets Systemic
How much evidence is enough?
How general dentists and periodontists can provide personalized preventive care for patients
Blood in the sink: How the relationship between oral and systemic health is gaining momentum – and what dental professionals need to know, part I
Blood in the sink: How the relationship between oral and systemic health is gaining momentum – and what dental professionals need to know, part II